Demented Ramblings life is too short to refrain from eating jam out of the jar


you put WHAT in the soup?

I am probably the only person I know who will make soup with filet mignon.

Several months ago, I bought a whole beef tenderloin. I trimmed the chain off and cut it into small bits and put it into a baggie in the freezer. I also cut several small steaks and put them in the freezer.

Flash forward to last week. Mum and I went to Malone's for lunch and I had their steak and potato soup. I feared that it might be a cream of potato soup with steak bits in it. Nope, it was just what I was hoping for - a beef base with steak pieces and cubes of potato. Yummy, but I can do better.

Today, I called and asked the boyfriend to dig out that baggie of steak bits for me - not thinking that when frozen, gobs of meat all look rather similar. He put down the bits and a couple of small steaks too. That's ok, it'll all go in the pot!

I called pop and asked him if he'd come over and help me install a peephole in my front door, I bribed him with promises of dinner. Luckily, it turned out well. As usual, my cooking is all method and no recipe. I'll make a great grandma someday. ("I dunno, honey, a little of this and a little of that.")

I cut the meat into bite sized pieces and dropped it into a hot soup pot with a little olive oil. While it was browning a bit I chopped 1 onion and 3 cloves of garlic and added them. Then I cubed 2 baking potatoes into small pieces and added that. Dumped in a 32 oz carton of beef broth and then decided that wasn't enough liquid. I dropped in two beef bouillion cubes and two cups of water, whatever worchestershire was left in the fridge (maybe a tablespoon) a little merlot steak sauce (maybe another tablespoon), a couple healthy pinches of salt and a palmful of montreal steak seasoning. Then I cranked the heat and put a lid on it, letting it boil happily while dad and I worked on the door. A half hour or so later it was done - the steak was tender and so were the potatoes. We dished it up and had a little toast with garlic butter on the side.


And plenty left for lunch tomorrow! Super yay!


If I’d known you were coming…

For the last few weeks, Tastespotting has been filled with Rainbow Cakes (google them, you'll find a lot of images with great explanations). The colors call to me. I wanted to make my own, especially when I saw someone else make them into cupcakes. Besides, I needed to test out my oven, y'know.

I mixed up an ordinary cake mix. As someone else said, Betty Crocker's been doing it for many more years than me, she knows what she's doing. In this case it was Pillsbury, because they were cheapest. Just a plain white cake mix, done up per package directions.

I split the batter into six ramekins and played around with the food coloring a bit. I went too dark with my purple, it wound up more brown, but it was rather grey and adding more red just made it more brown. I gave up.

You can see there that I haven't even finished taking all the tools out of the kitchen, there's a level on the counter still!

I spooned a little of each batter into paper lined muffin cups, only making 12. I know, this mix should make 24, but I wanted big cupcakes and I only have one muffin pan. If you have more patience than me, you would carefully add the batter to the center and let it spread outward or whatever. I am more slapdash than that. I just randomly blooped it in.

Baked them (at the top end of the baking time since they're super sized) and they came out like this:

You know I couldn't wait for them to cool off before slicing into one.

*squeee* I'll top them with just some cool whip later, because that's what I wanted on them.

It's a plain white cake, it tastes like a plain white cake. It's just more fun.


Bread pudding for Daddy

My poppakins, he lurves the bread pudding. I lurves to experiment in the kitchen. I had a half loaf of challah and a desire to be nice to the daddoo, so it was time to embark upon an adventure. Paula Dean would have spit it out with a patoo, not enough butter or sugar. I thought it was PERFECT. Both the pudding and the sauce were combinations of various recipes I found online.

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Rip leftover bread into small pieces, it should be enough bread to fill an 8x8 dish.

In a saucepan over medium low heat, warm 2 cups of whole milk (with a little cream mixed in, I ran out of milk) with a half stick of salted butter. Just warm it until the butter melts.

In a bowl, whisk 3 eggs with 1/2 cup of white sugar. Slowly temper in the milk/butter mixture. Then stir in a teaspoon of vanilla extract and a healthy sprinkling of cinnamon. Pour the mixture over the bread and mix it together. Then let it sit for 5 minutes to soak in. Stir it again and smooth it off. Place this pan into a larger one and fill halfway with hotwater. Bake for 45-50 minutes. It shouldn't be too dry, but shouldn't be jiggly either. My oven runs a bit slow, you might want to cut the time a bit.

When the pudding comes out of the oven, start the sauce. Over medium heat, melt 2 T butter and stir in 1/4 cup dark brown sugar and 1/4 cup light corn syrup. Let it boil for 1 minute then stir in 1/4 cup bourbon. Most folks will tell you to remove it from the heat before putting in the bourbon, but I never do and thusfar have not set myself on fire. Let's just say "do as I say, not as I do" like my mama would. Let it bubble for a minute or so, and remove from heat. Dish up the pudding and drizzle the sauce over the top. How much is up to you.

Way tasty - and this probably made 8 big servings. Or 4 for Dad.


Taunting you with pictures!

Well now kiddies, it's Valentine's Day. The last time that Sparks and I tried to go to dinner on Vday evening, we wound up getting mad because we couldn't find a table anywhere. So, instead, we went out last night and stayed in tonight. I cooked dinner for him.

I feel like I did pretty well - it was right tasty start to finish.

Dinner was my infamous Shrimp 'n' Not Grits. This recipe came about after the Spoiled White Girl made us Shrimp and Grits and the boyfriend refused to eat the grits. Hates them, he does - it's a texture thing. So, I set forth to adapt this recipe to suit him, it's better than the original, I think. Plus, it's rather forgiving. Put things in the pan out of order, add a little more or less of things, it's all ok. Just don't salt the risotto before adding the cheeses - makes it too salty.

I decided that it needed a side dish - so I dressed up some canned green beans with a little red pepper and toasted garlic. I also pulled garlic bread out of the freezer.

Remember kiddies, don't fear the garlic for Valentine's Day. As Rachel Ray says, "two garlics cancel each other out." As long as you both eat it, it doesn't matter.

For dessert, I turned to the Pioneer Woman. I made her Pots de Creme.

On the side there is a chocolate covered strawberry from Old Kentucky Chocolates. Completely unnecessary. The dessert was wonderful without it. This dessert will join my regular arsenal for dinner parties - super simple and amazingly decadent. Plus, the standard recipe made six generous servings. Not those restaurant sized portions where you are wondering if your significant other will be aghast if you put your face in the container, instead it was just enough. I could have even stopped a bit or two before the end. Not that I did! The whipped cream is needed, it helps to cut the richness of chocolate.

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Comfort that doesn’t come from a can

All week long, I've been feeling under the weather. I think I've got some sort of stomach bug. Either that or a combo of GERD, PMS, and depression. It doesn't matter which, I've been feeling crappy and food has not been my friend.

Tonight, I was craving beans. A big hot bowl of pinto bean soup with corn bread. However, that also wasn't quite what I wanted either. But something warm and cozy, like a blanket for my insides. I dug around my pantry and found a bad of "harvest soup" mix that I'd picked up at the Amish market a year or so ago. It's a mixture of various colored lentils and split peas with wild rice.

I put that into my biggest pot with some water and chicken broth. I peeled several cloves of garlic and dropped them in whole and let the whole thing simmer for a bit, throwing in a few herbs and a healthy bit of salt. It tasted ok as it was, but it needed something more. It needed carrots.

So, I got dressed and trudged over to the Kroger. I picked up 3 carrots, 1 parsnip, 1 teeny turnip, 1 large potato and an onion. Brought that home and chopped it into the soup then back to ransacking the pantry for tomatoes. For some reason I thought I had a zillion cans of tomatoes, I found one. And one can of tomato sauce. Put both of those in the soup with a bit more chicken broth and let it cook until the veggies were tender.

I wound up with a lovely root vegetable stew. I ladled it into a bowl and found that it still needed something....

I put a small dollop of leftover garlic yogurt sauce in the center with some parsley. So good I had to eat three bowls!

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A conquered fear

Last night I finally beat my fear of the flame!

I flambeed bananas foster. Maybe they were a bit better for it, I'm not sure. Now that I don't have a big greasy range hood, I decided to give it a shot. I started a fire in the kitchen ON PURPOSE and the world did not end.

I'm quite happy with myself.


cook something new day!

More experimentation for dinner. I decided to head to Fresh Market and let it inspire me for dinner.

Braised chicken sausages
Garlic green beans


roasted brussel sprouts!

Go ahead, get all the icks out. I'd never had a brussel sprout, and honestly they didn't "look to suit me" as Pop would say. So, I'd recently decided that I wasn't to at least try one. I figure I'm fairly likely to get decent ones at fresh market.

I looked around online and found this recipe and gave it a try. I only deviated slightly - I added a spoonful of bacon grease in with the olive oil since I'd seen some tv chef saute them in bacon grease. I think I slightly undercooked them, they were still rather al dente, but they were quite tasty. Not going to become a favorite, but not completely out of the question either if I'm craving something different.

Sparks said they were the best brussel sprouts he'd ever had! Woot!


Put ze bok-bok in ze pote!

Early this afternoon, I decided that I wanted to make a roast chicken. My friend Mari says that she always does hers in the crock pot and it's scrumptious. Ok, I'll give it a shot. But I had to go buy myself a crock pot. I didn't have one, just used dad's when I lived with him.

This was obviously the correct day to have this urge. I went to Meijer since they could provide me with both a chicken and a pot to cook it in, plus had pepsi products on sale. We likes the pepsi products around here. I found a 5.5 quart crock pot, normally $40, for $10. In addition to that, chickens were only $0.79 a pound! Whoooo!

I looked at several recipes, plus talked to Mari, then decided to just wing it. Hurr Hurr! I rubbed the chicken with olive oil and dumped in some herbs and salt and garlic cloves then decided to pour in a bit of chicken broth to keep it nice and moist. I cooked it on high for an hour, then switched to low like all the recipes told me to do. *rolls eyes* Gawds, it took blasted forever. 6 hours of cook time and still the juices did not run clear! So, I cranked up the oven to 375F and slid the chicken in for just shy of an hour.

While it was cooking, I boiled up some baby red potatoes with a few cloves of garlic thrown in. We love garlic! I mashed those when they were done. I also boiled some baby carrots and glazed them with butter and maple syrup. From the broth/drippings left in the crock pot, I made a gravy.

Oh my gawd! So worth the wait! But I really wish it had been finished before 11:30 pm. Now I'm sleepy and so full that I think I might barf if I tried to be horizontal. Sorry no pictures, but by the time it was finished we were so hungry that we dived on it like a couple of crazed velociraptors!


Don’t cry for me, intarwebz!

One of my absolute worst habits is the wasting of food. It's obscene, the amount of food that rots in my fridge while I eat microwave popcorn.

I think part of it is that I have good intentions. One of the things that I wind up throwing away the most of is bagged salads. I buy a bag, eat one salad out of it, then don't want salad again for two weeks.

Another bad influence on my waste is the farmer's market. Saturday is the only day to really hit the farmer's market, there's not nearly as many vendors there on tuesdays and thursdays. So, I see all of these great veggies that look amazing and I buy more than I can eat that day. Then I forget about my purchases until the next weekend, when they are way yuck.

Tonight, though, I rescued a whole bunch of things that might have been forgotten if not for the fact that I skipped lunch and spent my last hour of work thinking about what I wanted for dinner. Sparks says, "Spaghetti? You can't do better than that after the great dinner you made last night?"

Don't mourn for poor Ysha, babies and darlings. This was no sauce from a jar with greyish hamburger.

I started with a package of cherry tomatoes (they were on sale at Kroger last week for a dollar!) and half a bulb of garlic. I cleaned the tomatoes and separated the garlic cloves, tossing them all with olive oil and kosher salt and tossed them in the oven for 30 minutes at 400F. The garlic was soft and yummy, but the tomatoes weren't done yet, so I put them back for about another 20 minutes while I got started on the rest of my sauce.

I cleaned a quarter pound of chanterelle mushrooms (farmer's market last saturday) and sauteed them in a tablespoon of butter. Oh yes, Paula Dean fans, we cook with butter around here! I tossed in a little salt and then hit them with a half cup or so of leftover shiraz that I was keeping around to cook with. I mashed the garlic out of the skins and turned it into a paste, which was tossed in with the mushrooms. I also dumped in the tomatoes at the point and squished them with the spatula. I decided the sauce looked a bit dry, so I dumped in a bit of chicken stock (for that simmered all day taste, says Rachel Ray. whatevs, says I.) I boiled up a big handful of angel hair pasta while this was going on and chopped up a big handful of basil leaves (farmer's market last saturday). I mixed probably 2/3 of the basil in with the sauce to simmer.

When the pasta was done I drained it and tossed it with a tablespoon of butter. Then topped it with the sauce, a handful of parmesan cheese and the rest of the basil.

And hey look! A picture! GET OUT!

I took 8 pictures of a bowl of pasta, just to get one that wasn't horrid.

Just for reference, that bowl would feed two adults, probably 3 if you threw in a salad and bit of bread. I ate almost half of it before I was stuffed to the gills.


Dinner at Morton’s, in which Ysha is a backward goob

Son, I tell you whut. Being in Chicago turns me into a wide eyed little girl. I walk around gawking at everything in the world and loving this city.

It's been a very long week, and what I really wanted for dinner was a nice glass of pinot noir and a big juicy steak. When I came back from my neighborhood exploration earlier, I inquired of the concierge(Ryan) where to get the best steak closeby - he sent me to Morton's, even made a reservation for me. I could do with a concierge in my life all the time, someone to recommend restaurants and take care of the details.

I popped around the corner and into the restaurant at the appointed time and was immediately seated. But the man seating me didn't provide me with either a menu or a wine list. What the hey? So, I just figured the server would bring it over in a few minutes, but I was still a bit confused.

The lovely Miss Jenn brought me the wine list and asked my preference for the "water service". *snicker* Source Municipal (as Waiter would say) is just fine for me thanks. Jenn told me that her co-server Angela would be over in just a moment for the "menu presentation".

The what?

My wine comes and a nice busser drops me a fresh baked loaf of onion bread. Still, no menu. Angela passes by and tells me that she will return momentarily for the "menu presentation".

At this point, I am expecting a musical number to accompany this presentation. Is a huge dancing bear going to come out of the kitchen and hand me my menu? Are streamers going to float from the ceiling as it touches my dainty hand? This is some serious buildup for a menu, no doubt.

I didn't have to wonder for much longer. Angela comes over wheeling a cart of food. I say to her, "honey, that's not a menu! That's the whole kitchen!"

She laughed and began her presentation. On this cart were several trays of food covered in cling film. She listed off each menu item (they weren't ALL on the cart) and displayed the various cuts of beef for me. All of the steaks she showed me were huge and promised to be delivered in that size. Then she starts talking about the seafood selections and brandishes a plastic lobster at me.


Yes, babies and darlings, it was a live lobster. She picked him up and he wiggled at me. I expressed my mild disdain (with a "oh my god! That's a live lobster!") and then she finished the presentation. Luckily for those of us with a rather short attention span, she then left me with a hard copy of the menu so that I could consider my choices.

I had already eyeballed them online and knew that I wanted to try their "legendary" chocolate lava cake, so I didn't go wild on dinner. I ordered the single cut filet (smaller portion) and the garlic green beans. Dinner was scrumptious.

Dessert was damn near perfect, BUT for their signature dessert I expected more. Oh, it was large enough and it was fresh from the oven (I'd had to order it before my meal came since it takes 30 minutes to make). It was nicely oozy in the middle and served with a very good quality vanilla ice cream. But, I dunno, the chocolatey flavor was a wee bit ..... flat. Like maybe it could have used a teeny smidge of salt in the batter.

WHAT? I never denied being a food snob.

Anyway, dinner was terrific and I managed to only act like I just fell off the turnip truck a few times. We won't talk about the price though - just know that I stopped at the 7-11 across the street and bought a BOTTLE of pinot noir for the same amount I paid for a GLASS at the restaurant.

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